Human Rights Council
29 June 2015
Holds General Debate on the Human Rights Situation in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories
The Human Rights Council today held an interactive dialogue with the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict, followed by a general debate on the human rights situation in Palestine and other Occupied Arab Territories.
Mary McGowan Davis, Chair of the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict, said that the strikes by the Israeli defence forces on homes and families in Gaza in which large numbers of civilians had been killed, including 551 children, were reflective of a broader policy, approved at least tacitly by decision-makers at the highest levels of the Government of Israel. The Commission found that Palestinian armed groups fired an unprecedented number of projectiles towards Israel, the vast majority of which were rockets without guidance systems aimed at major population centres in Israel. The Commission was concerned about the prevailing impunity across the board and stressed that comprehensive and effective accountability mechanisms for violations committed by Israel or Palestinian actors would be a key deciding factor in preventing further violations. The Commission also urged the international community to accelerate and intensify efforts to develop legal and policy standards to limit the use of explosive weapons with wide-areas effects in populated areas, with a view to strengthening the protection of civilians during hostilities.
State of Palestine spoke as a concerned country and condemned the continuing impunity of perpetrators and restrictions to the access to justice for Palestinians, and stressed the importance of universal jurisdiction to ensure accountability. Despite some gaps in the report, the Commission reached recommendations and conclusions to ensure accountability, which the Council should endorse.
Israel was not present in the room to speak as a concerned country.
In the ensuing interactive dialogue, delegations strongly condemned Israel’s excessive and disproportionate military aggression against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in 2014. The report clearly registered Israel’s violations of the applicable norms of international humanitarian and human rights law, including the principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions. The human suffering in the latest Gaza war was unacceptable, they said, and called for serious investigations to ensure accountability for any crimes committed under international law. Many inquired how, in the absence of Israeli’s constructive engagement, the rights of all victims could be upheld and fulfilled, including the right to effective remedy and full reparations, and asked the Commission to elaborate on its recommendation that all parties fully cooperate with the preliminary examination of the International Criminal Court. Other speakers criticized the failure of the Commission of Inquiry to recognize Israel’s right to self-defence as guaranteed by the United Nations Charter and regretted that the Council systematically singled out Israel.
Speaking were Algeria on behalf of the African Group, European Union, Tunisia on behalf of the Arab Group, Iran on behalf of the Non Aligned Movement, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Egypt, Tunisia, Bolivia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, New Zealand, Maldives, Namibia, Iraq, South Africa, Senegal, Chile, Mali, Bahrain, Indonesia, Niger, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iceland, Ireland, Algeria, Jordan, Brazil, Switzerland, Syria, Kuwait, Norway, Morocco, Lebanon, Venezuela, Cuba, Libya, Bangladesh, Mexico, Mauritania, Sudan, and China.
The International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions spoke on behalf of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights. The non-governmental organizations that took the floor in the discussion were: Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man, Touro Law Centre, Medical Aid for Palestinians, ADALAH-Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, American Association of Jurists, Al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights, and International Federation for Human Rights Leagues.
Speakers in the general debate on the human rights situation in Palestine and other Occupied Arab Territories condemned Israel’s repeated military aggression against Palestinian territories, and the illegal construction of settlements under the pretext of self-defence. Last year, 551 children died during Israeli military operation in Gaza, while in 2013 the United Nations Children Fund reported that the cruel and ill-treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention was widespread. Yet, the Council remained more divided than united in calling upon Israel to honour its international obligations, including the Convention on the Right of the Child. States should support actively the work of the International Criminal Court in relation to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and exercise universal jurisdiction over crimes under international law; this was the only hope of justice for the victims or accountability for the perpetrators. Speakers also regretted that the Council refused to refer to Hamas by name and to acknowledge violations of international law by this group, adding that Hamas dug tunnels under Israeli territory with the aim of perpetrating attacks against civilians and used human shields in Gaza.
State of Palestine and Syria spoke as concerned countries.
Palestine said that the occupation forces in Palestine were oppressing the local population and building settlements, making them the largest violators of human rights in the world. The occupying power had to live up to its commitments under international law.
Syria said the Israeli occupation continued to fundamentally violate the rights of Syrian citizens in the occupied Golan. The occupation authorities continued to steal water resources from the population and impose numerous restrictions on them. The impunity provided by the United States and its allies in the Security Council allowed Israel to intensify its violations and be above the international law.
Israel was not present in the room to speak as a concerned country.
Speaking were Algeria on behalf of the African Group, Iran on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Tunisia on behalf of the Arab Group, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, China, Cuba, Russia, Maldives, Algeria, Venezuela, El Salvador, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Turkey, Tunisia, Chile, Ecuador, Senegal, Bahrain, Jordan, Malaysia, Iran, Lebanon, Yemen, Oman, Uruguay, and the African Union.
Also speaking in the general debate were the following non-governmental organizations: World Council of Churches, Defence for Children International, United Nations Watch, Arab Commission for Human Rights, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD), Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man, Medical Aid for Palestinians, Al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights, International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, World Barua Organization, Federacion de Asociaciones de Defensa y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos, Union of Arab Jurists, Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations, International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, World Jewish Congress, Amuta for Non-governmental Organization Responsibility, B’nai B’rith, European Union of Jewish Students, Ingéneurs du Monde (joint statement), International Federation of Journalists, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and American Association of Jurists.
The Council is holding a full day of meetings today. At 3 p.m., it will hold a general debate on Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, followed by an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on racism and racial discrimination, who will present his report on the use of racial and ethnic profiling.
The Council has before it the report of the International commission of inquiry to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, in the context of the military operations conducted since 13 June 2014 (A/HRC/29/52)
Presentation of the Report
MARY MCGOWAN DAVIS, Chair of the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict, said that the Commission found that the attacks by the Israeli defence forces on homes and families had led to the killing of large numbers of persons. Approximately 551 children had died last summer in Gaza during the fighting. Given the timing of the attacks, the choice of weapon in densely populated areas, and the fact that the attacks continued although their dire impact on civilians and civilian objects became apparent in the first days of the conflict, this raised concern that the strikes might constitute military tactics reflective of a broader policy, approved at least tacitly by decision-makers at the highest levels of the Government of Israel. The ground operations in Shuja’iya, Khuza’a and Rafah had led to huge numbers of civilian casualties, and the systematic way in which some of those areas had been flattened one after the other raised concerns that such extensive destruction was not required by military imperative necessity. There were indications that Israeli defence force protection considerations overrode concern for the impact of their conduct on civilians: when soldiers’ lives were at stake or there was a risk of capture, the Israeli army discarded the cardinal principles of international humanitarian law, as had clearly been demonstrated by the Israeli defence forces attack on Rafah on 1 August 2014. During the same period, Palestinian armed groups fired an unprecedented number of projectiles towards Israel, the vast majority of which were rockets without guidance systems aimed at major population centres in Israel. Palestinian armed groups used attack tunnels, which caused anxiety amongst the residents of Israeli communities located close to Gaza. Palestinian armed groups regularly conducted operations from densely populated areas and in some cases fired mortars from specially protected buildings. The questionable conduct of these armed groups did not, however, modify Israel’s own obligations to abide by international law. The authorities in Gaza and the State of Palestine must conduct thorough investigations into the summary execution of alleged collaborators, and bring those responsible for this war crime to justice.
Last year’s hostilities had brought about an unprecedented level of suffering and hardship, and the lack of progress in reconstruction and the disastrous impact of the blockade on the ground had led to deepening levels of desperation and frustration among the population of Gaza. Three major conflicts in six years and the blockade strangled the economy and impeded the realization of virtually every right of the population of Gaza, hampering access to education, housing, health, food, water and sanitation. The West Bank, including East Jerusalem, had witnessed widespread human rights violations, including the fundamental right to life, with a considerable increase in the number of deaths and injuries resulting from the pervasive use of live ammunition by Israeli security forces in law enforcement operations, which appeared to reflect a change in policy or regulations. The Commission raised the issue of why the policies in Gaza and the West Bank had not been revised by Israeli authorities; this lack of a change in policy or tactics, despite substantial information regarding the massive degree of death and destruction in Gaza, had raised questions about potential violations of international humanitarian law by Israeli officials, which might amount to war crimes. Current accountability mechanisms might not be adequate to address this issue. The Commission was concerned about the prevailing impunity across the board and stressed that comprehensive and effective accountability mechanisms for violations allegedly committed by Israel or Palestinian actors would be a key deciding factor in preventing further violations. The Commission also urged the international community to accelerate and intensify efforts to develop legal and policy standards to limit the use of explosive weapons with wide-areas effects in populated areas, with a view to strengthening the protection of civilians during hostilities.
Statement by Concerned Country
State of Palestine, speaking as a concerned country, underlined the irresponsible behaviour of the occupying power Israel, and condemned its lack of cooperation with the Commission of Inquiry. The report was balanced and neutral, and highlighted the violations by Israel and the targeting of civilians, amounting to international crimes. Israel was responsible for these massive violations and had deliberately planned them. Palestine condemned the continuing impunity of perpetrators, and restrictions to the access to justice for Palestinians. It underlined the importance of universal jurisdiction to ensure accountability. It regretted that the report failed to consider some Israeli violations as international crimes, and did not take into consideration the unbalanced military force between the parties to the conflict, or the fact that one side was under occupation. In spite of these gaps, the Commission was able to reach recommendations and conclusions to ensure accountability, and the Council should endorse these. Palestine called on Israel to acknowledge its crimes, and noted with concern that Israel had failed to properly investigate and prosecute violations of international law, including the murder of four children on a beach. Palestine finally said that Israel had attempted to bribe other delegations into rejecting this report.
Israel was invited to speak as a concerned country but was not present in the room.
Algeria, speaking on behalf of the African Group, expressed concern over the level of hostilities described in the report. Over 600 airstrikes were launched by the Israeli forces. Particularly concerning was the systemic impunity which required accountability. The use of artillery was particularly worrisome as it led to the destruction of entire neighbourhoods in Gaza. European Union said the report provided information about serious humanitarian law violations by all sides and stressed that the victims had to gain access to reparations and justice immediately. It asked the Commission to elaborate on its findings regarding measures taken to provide remedy to the victims and on the recommendation that all parties fully cooperate with preliminary examination of the International Criminal Court. Tunisia, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, condemned the lack of Israel’s cooperation with the Commission. The Arab Group condemned the barbaric attack against Gaza and the widespread destruction of the infrastructure, which was part of the systematic policy of the Israeli Government which targeted entire neighbourhoods with deadly force. There was no respect for proportionality and the gross violations of international humanitarian law required a neutral judicial body to investigate them. Iran, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said tangible steps should be taken to end the occupation of the Palestinian territories, where the extensive use of explosive weapons was used against the civilian infrastructure. Israel’s refusal to grant access to the Commission of Inquiry was strongly condemned. Israel should immediately leave the occupied territories, and all victims should be granted effective remedy.
Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation, condemned Israel’s lack of cooperation with international mechanisms, as well as its campaign to discredit members of the Commission of Inquiry. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation stressed that indiscriminate attacks were part of a deliberate policy by Israel and called for accountability for these crimes. It regretted that the report failed to acknowledge the unbalance of powers and lacked references to the situation in the West Bank. Egypt stressed the importance of the Council seriously dealing with the report of the Commission of Inquiry, which constituted evidence of crimes by Israel during the Gaza conflict, including the disproportionate use of force leading to the death of thousands of civilians. Egypt welcomed the State of Palestine’s cooperation, and expressed deep concern over Israel’s lack of cooperation. Tunisia strongly condemned the occupying power’s continued lack of cooperation with the Commission of Inquiry, as well as the use of disproportionate force against civilians, in a grave violation of international humanitarian law. Tunisia said impunity would lead to more violations of the rights of Palestinians, including their right to self-determination. Bolivia regretted Israel’s lack of cooperation, and condemned systemic violations against the Palestinian people. The conflict in Gaza had led to the death of thousands of civilians and violations of international humanitarian law by Israel. Israel must grant access to the Palestinian territory to international observers and allow investigations on violations of international law. States that had influence over Israel should pressure it to abide by its international obligations.
Qatar condemned Israel’s refusal to cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry and said that the report unfortunately did not characterise the killing of several thousand women, children and men in Gaza in 2014 as war crimes. It was not correct to equate between the oppressor and oppressed, aggressor and aggressed and those who exercised their right to self-defence against Israeli’s aggression. United Arab Emirates said that the Commission’s report had not properly qualified the crimes committed by Israel in Gaza and the West Bank as crimes against humanity, and called upon the Council to adopt the report of the Commission of Inquiry. Malaysia said that the report had confirmed that the prolonged occupation and blockade of Gaza by Israel had severely paralyzed the lives of Palestinians, bringing about despair, stocking anger and extremism even further, and hastening the vicious cycle of violence that had claimed so many lives, such as the one in 2014 in which 2,251 Palestinians had been killed. New Zealand regretted that the genesis of the Council’s engagement on this issue was deeply flawed, which was unfortunate because the serious suffering of civilians outlined in the report required the attention of the international community. By taking the conclusions of the report further, the Council could conduct its work in a way that did not further polarize views, and could also help the parties in the resumption of peace negotiations.
Maldives welcomed the support provided to the Commission by the Palestinian Authority and other States, but regretted the lack of Israel’s cooperation. It was noted that Israel’s attacks were carried out during times when they maximized the number of civilian victims. The disproportionality between Palestinian and Israeli civilian victims spoke volumes about the unequal footing between the two sides. Namibia said that war crimes may have been committed in the fighting that started in Gaza in July 2014, noting that it was the third destructive operation in Gaza by Israel in the past seven years. During that period Israel was engaged in a policy of forcible displacement of Palestinians from their homes. Namibia urged that those responsible for the violations of international law and human rights abuses be held accountable. Iraq said the report of the Commission of Inquiry was balanced and applauded its independence and impartiality. The weapons used by Israel in the 2014 Gaza attack destroyed infrastructure and were used in a disproportionate manner. The Palestinian people could no longer be denied their right to self-determination. South Africa recognized the difficulties that the Commission had experienced in its work. Israel continued to commit violations of international humanitarian law, particularly through its disproportionate use of force against Palestinian civilians. The international community should accelerate efforts to develop mechanisms that would limit the use of deadly force and end impunity.
Senegal welcomed that the Commission had produced an objective and balanced report despite not being granted access to the Occupied Territories. Senegal was concerned about the humanitarian disaster and about grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, possibly amounting to war crimes. Chile expressed condolences to all victims of the Gaza conflict, and regretted Israel’s refusal to cooperate with the Commission. Chile asked whether Israel had replied to questionnaires sent by the Commission, and whether existing mechanisms could lead to accountability for alleged war crimes. Mali underlined the urgency of putting an end to provocations, which prevented dialogue between the parties, and noted that the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories remained worrying. Mali called for dialogue in the interest of peace and security in the region, and stressed its support for the two-State solution. Bahrain said the report did not fully reflect the magnitude of violations by Israel, and condemned atrocities against Palestinians, including indiscriminate bombings of civilians amounting to war crimes. The international community had failed to hold Israel to account for its acts, which amounted to apartheid and should therefore be met with the same action and pressure exhibited in relation to apartheid acts of South Africa.
Indonesia strongly condemned the excessive and disproportionate military aggression against the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip in 2014 and asked the Commission how, in the absence of Israeli’s constructive engagement, the rights of all victims could be upheld and fulfilled, including effective remedy and full reparations. Niger noted that the blockade of Gaza by Israel, which had been described by the United Nations Secretary-General as a continuing collective penalty by Israel against the population in Gaza, together with illegal settlements building and settler violence, remained at the heart of human rights violations against Palestinians. Turkey said that the military operation coupled with the blockade of Gaza had led to chronic, widespread and systematic violations of human rights of Palestinians. The report clearly registered Israel’s violations of the applicable norms of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, including the principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions. Saudi Arabia said that the Commission of Inquiry had made it clear that crimes perpetuated by Israel in Gaza in 2014 amounted to war crimes, and ask about the next step for the Council to hold those responsible for violations accountable and ensure remedies to victims.
Iceland noted that Israel’s constant disrespect for international humanitarian law was unacceptable. It added that no one could stay immune to the despair and immense human suffering of the civilian population in Gaza. The Israelis and Palestinians should reach an agreement so that the two States could live side by side in peace and stability. Ireland regretted the decision of Israel not to cooperate with the Commission and to refuse it entry into the occupied Palestinian territories. The launching of missiles indiscriminately at cities was contrary to international law. Any State had the right to defend itself, but that right did not negate the rights of others, nor did it confer carte blanche to react with disproportionate force. Algeria said it was deeply concerned over the continued lack of Israel’s cooperation with the Commission, and it agreed with the report’s finding that there was a need to end the impunity of Israeli forces. The Palestinian reaction should be viewed as self defence against the brutal attack of Israel. Israel should be compelled to end the siege of Gaza and to respect international humanitarian law. Iran stated that it was gravely concerned over the violations of human rights committed by Israel, which resulted in the killing of numerous civilians and the destruction of infrastructure. Iran regretted that the report did not consider Israel’s attacks as crimes against humanity, and that it failed to reflect on whether those attacks required the involvement of an international judicial body.
Jordan stressed the need to implement the recommendations by the Commission of Inquiry, and expressed concerns about Israel’s indiscriminate attacks against Palestinian civilians. Jordan underlined the importance of also implementing the recommendations by other United Nations Bodies, and recalled Palestinians’ inalienable right to self-determination. Brazil said endless violations of international law in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories were intolerable. It condemned indiscriminate attacks against civilians in the Gaza Strip, as well as rocket launches on Israel. Brazil noted that punitive home demolition in Gaza constituted collective punishment and violated international law. It called for accountability as well as for dealing with the root causes of the conflict. Switzerland was deeply troubled by repeated and serious violations of the principle of precaution, proportionality and distinction by all parties. It underlined the importance of credible, transparent and independent investigations by all parties of alleged violations of international law, some amounting to war crimes. Syria said thousands of tons of heavy weapons were used against civilians in Gaza, targeting hospitals and schools where civilians ran to seek protection. War crimes documented by the Commission of Inquiry were part of a long list of crimes by the Israeli occupation, which had always failed to be held accountable.
Kuwait firmly condemned violations of human rights of Palestinians and asked the international community to shoulder its responsibility to protect the Palestinian people and ensure that Israel put an end to the violations it was committing. The Council should ensure accountability for human rights violations. Norway said that the human suffering in the latest Gaza war was unacceptable and called for serious investigations to ensure accountability for any crimes committed under international law. Norway also urged the international community to intensify the assistance for the reconstruction of Gaza. Morocco said that the report had been done in a very professional manner, despite the non-cooperation by Israel, and the lack of financial and human resources. The Commission had shown the extent of destruction in Gaza because of the excessive and indiscriminate use of force by the Israeli defence forces. Lebanon was not surprised by the non-cooperation of Israel with the Commission and was not surprised by its condemnable conduct in Gaza; which was fully in line with its non-respect for human rights mechanisms. The report condemned Israelis and Palestinians equally, which was not realistic; balance did not mean equating the aggressor with the victim.
Venezuela noted that the Israeli forces acted as a terrorist organization deliberately targeting the civilian population in Gaza in 2014. As a result, more than 1,500 civilians died, among them more than 500 children. The criminal responsibility of those who perpetrated the genocidal attack had to be established. Cuba said that the report confirmed the extension of the humanitarian tragedy caused by the attacks in 2014. That humanitarian effect would last for generations. Cuba regretted the lack of Israel’s cooperation with the Commission and the statements of senior Israeli leaders who had discredited the content of the report. Libya reiterated its firm condemnation of the attacks of the occupying Israeli force in Gaza in 2014 and the disproportionate use of force against the civilian population, including the use of aerial attacks. The continuation of Israel’s collective punitive policy against the Palestinian people was rejected. Bangladesh agreed that Israel as the occupying power in the Palestinian territories bore responsibility for implementing its human rights obligations. It was appalled to witness the systemic violation of the human rights of the Palestinian people in Gaza. The blockade of Gaza since 2007 was strangling the economy and imposed severe restrictions on the rights of Palestinians.
Mexico said it was of particular importance that the report maintained a victim-based approach, and underlined the importance of accountability. It condemned the rocket-launching from Gaza aimed at Israeli civilians, as well as the indiscriminate use of force by the Israeli military. It appealed to Israel to end the blockade and reiterated its support for a two-State solution. Mauritania expressed its deep concern over Israel’s non-cooperation with the Commission of Inquiry, and condemned the barbaric aggression against Gaza that led to the killings of thousands of civilians and the destruction of infrastructure. It also condemned the forced Judaization of East Jerusalem. Sudan condemned Israel’s non-cooperation with the Commission, and Israel’s blockade of Gaza, as well as the killing of civilians and the targeting of civilian infrastructure. Sudan also called for accountability for these violations of international law. China called on the international community to carry out its responsibilities, in light of the conclusions and recommendations of the report of the Commission of Inquiry, and hoped the United Nations would take more effective actions to protect the rights of the Palestinians.
Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights underlined the necessity for serious, thorough, impartial and independent investigations into war crimes by the Israeli military, and serious measures to implement the recommendations of the report. While the targeting of civilians was prohibited under all circumstances, the massive loss of Palestinian civilian casualties and their properties could not be compared to the loss on the Israeli side. It regretted that the report had also failed to reflect the extent of the aggression. Accountability for alleged war crimes was the key for bringing justice to Palestinian victims.
Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man reiterated the Commission’s concern that unlawful attacks by the Israeli forces were part of a larger policy that itself violated the laws of war. The root causes of the continued occupation included Israeli profit derived from domination and control over Palestinian land and natural resources, including natural gas. Touro Law Centre said that the Commission of Inquiry did not adequately take into account the right to self-defence as guaranteed by the United Nations Charter. Medical Aid for Palestinians said that the findings and the recommendations contained in the report must form the basis of further steps in the pursuit of critically needed accountability to prevent the recurrence of attacks. The pursuit of all possible avenues towards accountability was in the best interest of all. ADALAH-Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel said that Israeli’s investigative mechanisms into the conduct of its soldiers during the war failed to comply with international standards. Israel must open an investigation into the death of four children on a beach.
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, in a joint statement with Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man, Badil Ressource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, and Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, noted that it was the time to set up international accountability mechanisms and seconded the Commission’s call for all States to adhere to the use of universal jurisdiction by trying international crimes in their national courts. American Association of Jurists said that in the context of the long-standing occupation of the Palestinian territory by Israel, the blockade of the Gaza Strip was a major war crime that had to be stopped immediately. It called on all States to freeze all financial and technical military cooperation programmes with Israel. Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, in a joint statement with Badil Ressource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, noted that Palestinians had no hope of achieving accountability or accessing legal remedy in Israel. Israel’s justice system was tested enough and proved stark unwillingness to serve justice. Al Mezan Centre called on the Council to resolutely ensure protection, life, dignity and freedom through justice and accountability. International Federation for Human Rights Leagues welcomed the report’s recognition that the blockade of the Gaza Strip imposed by Israel had created a tremendous sense of entrapment for the population. The Israeli army failed to abide by the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution, and its targeting of civilians could amount to crimes against humanity.
State of Palestine, speaking as a concerned country, said in concluding remarks that it had started considering the possibility of establishing a committee to investigate alleged violations perpetrated against Palestinian civilians. Inquiries conducted by Israel were not objective and had led to the conclusion that Israel had not perpetrated any violation of international law. The term “racist regime” should not be censored within the Council, as it had been already used, including by Special Procedure mandate holders.
MARY MCGOWAN DAVIS, Chair of the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict, said in concluding remarks that the mandate of the Commission was to apply international humanitarian law, which applied to all combatants equally. There was a preliminary investigation under way by the International Criminal Court, with which all parties should cooperate fully. She welcomed the establishment by the State of Palestine of an investigation committee.
DOUDOU DIENE, Member of the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict, underlined the very huge number of civilian victims, particularly women and children, and the fact that extremely destructive weapons had been used in dense civilian areas. Attempts to remove the credibility of the report were regrettable, as the Commission had undergone its activities in the most scrupulous manner. The Council should make further efforts to ensure that the nomination of members of the Commission be made in a way that prevented criticism on its impartiality. He then said it was important for the Commission to establish a board of inquiry and ensure its access to Gaza.
General Debate on the Human Rights Situation in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories
Statements by Concerned Countries
State of Palestine, speaking as a concerned country, said that the occupation forces in Palestine were oppressing the local population and building settlements, making them the largest violators of human rights in the world. If such a situation were to continue, the international community would definitely lose its credibility. It was regrettable that Israel had not been included in the Secretary-General’s report on the violations of the rights of children in armed conflict. In Gaza, more than 550 children had been killed in Israeli attacks, which had been documented by numerous organizations, Israeli, Palestinian and international alike. The occupying power had to live up to its commitments under international law. The use of force and arbitrary punishment were in contravention of the Geneva Conventions. Israel had still not implemented the International Court of Justice decision on the wall, which ought to be removed.
Syria, speaking as a concerned country, stated that the Israeli occupation continued to fundamentally violate the rights of Syrian citizens in the occupied Golan. The occupation authorities continued to steal water resources from the population and impose numerous restrictions on them. The occupation forces had a free hand on the Palestinian territories as well; they were providing financial and administrative support to settlers from all over the world, who would replace the original owners of the land. The Council should reaffirm its condemnation of Israel for violating the Geneva Conventions, and ask it to release all Palestinian and Syrian prisoners. The impunity provided by the United States and its allies in the Security Council allowed Israel to intensify its violations and be above the international law. The Council had to shoulder its responsibility with regard to the double standards exposed by certain countries.
Algeria, speaking on behalf of the African Group, reaffirmed its support for the Palestinians’ right to self-determination and a State with borders before 1967 and the capital in Jerusalem. The African Group called for the immediate end of the occupation and the blockade of the Gaza Strip. It expressed concern about the important information in the Commission of Inquiry’s report, based on which the Council should act and stop impunity.
Iran, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, condemned in the strongest terms the human rights violations in the occupied Arab territories. In the past six decades, Israel had committed various crimes against the Palestinian people and had established apartheid. The international community should not stand by idly. Rather it had to ensure accountability for all those crimes, and to investigate and prosecute all suspected war criminals.
Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said that item 7 had to remain on the Council’s agenda until the occupation of the Palestinian territories ended. Israel continued its colonial policy, including repeated military aggression and illegal construction of homes in the Palestinian territory under the pretext of self-defence. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation condemned the involvement of multinational companies in the occupied territories.
Tunisia, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, expressed dissatisfaction with the decision of some countries to boycott item 7, which would encourage Israel to continue to commit human rights violations with impunity. Israel continued to occupy the Palestinian territories through the illegal construction of Jewish settlements. The Arab Group noted that some violations of multinational companies active in the occupied Palestinian territories could amount to war crimes.
Morocco said that Israel continued to violate all the rights of the Palestinians. They were being deprived of access to their national resources. The right of the Palestinians to have their independent State with Jerusalem as its capital was also being denied. Meanwhile, Israel was accelerating its illegal activities and encroaching on the Palestinian land. The Islamic identity of Jerusalem ought to be preserved.
Qatar stated that the administrative arrests and detentions and summary trials of Palestinians lacked any sign of due process. Israel was trying to force feed the imprisoned individuals who were on hunger strike. Israeli forces had stopped the third freedom flotilla, which had representatives of all countries in the world. Israeli efforts to colonize the city of Jerusalem were continuing.
Saudi Arabia condemned the illegal aggression of Israel on the Gaza Strip. The press conference by Israel was yet another proof that Israel ignored the international norms and human rights mechanisms. Israel showed high levels of intransigence, continuing with its colonizing activities and trying to obliterate the Islamic identity of Jerusalem, in line with the Jerusalem 2020 plan.
Indonesia said that Israel continued to commit the same grave systematic violations and abuses of human rights as well as of international law, as it had been doing over the past 60 years. The Gaza Strip was suffering from the effects of the Israeli blockade. The Declaration on Palestine, adopted at the 2015 Africa-Asia Summit, reaffirmed the commitments and pledges of the leaders in Asia and Africa to fully support the Government and the people of Palestine.
China stated that the Palestinian conflict was the key issue in the stability of the Middle East and thus the international community should immediately resolve it through the participation of all key stakeholders. China supported the establishment of an independent Palestine State within pre-1967 borders, and it supported every international initiative in favour of peace.
Cuba noted that the occupying power continued to disregard the decisions of the Council and other United Nations bodies. The Palestinian nation was being denied its right to self-determination. The only possible solution to the conflict was the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the occupied Palestinian territories. However, that solution would not be possible without the provision of full remedy to all victims.
Russian Federation stated that it was in favour of a political and just solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of a two-State solution. It opposed the human rights violations committed by Israel and it urged Tel Aviv to alleviate the suffering of civilians in the Palestinian territories. The status quo clearly had no future and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process had to resume, with the creation of a Palestinian State as the end result.
Maldives reiterated its steadfast solidarity with the Palestinian people and their rightful cause. It was particularly concerned over the situation of children in the Gaza Strip, which was in ruins after the 2014 Israeli attacks. The indiscriminate shelling and rocket attacks by Israel killed more than 540 children and left hundreds injured. Maldives reiterated its support for a two-State solution to the conflict, based on the pre-1967 borders.
Algeria reiterated its strong support for the just cause of the Palestinian people suffering for decades from the occupation by the Israelis. Israel had been practicing corrective sanctions against the Palestinian people, taking them hostage and destroying their infrastructure. The catastrophic consequences of the Israeli colonization policies were visible. Algeria condemned the illegal detention of Palestinians without due judicial process.
Venezuela supported the yearnings of the Palestinian people to become an independent, sovereign State. Despite all the resolutions adopted by the United Nations, Israel continued with its colonization policies. The inhumane blockade suffered by the population in Gaza was vehemently condemned. Venezuela would continue to support the Palestinian cause. Israel should once and for all meet its international obligations.
El Salvador said that as a founding member of the United Nations, it gave priority to dialogue and peace between peoples. El Salvador was a party to various international human rights treaties. Based on international law, it rejected the use of force as a way to resolve conflicts, or the use of civilians in such conflicts. El Salvador called upon the international community to reinforce its efforts on the reconstruction of Gaza.
United Arab Emirates said that Israel was an occupying power and, as such, it ought to protect civilians under its control. Collective punishment of the Palestinians and the policy of apartheid were strongly condemned. The non-cooperation of Israel with a number of the United Nations mechanisms was a violation, which had to be taken seriously.
Egypt said that putting an end to the human rights violations being committed in the Gaza Strip would be a historic step in the history of the Human Rights Council, adding that there should be no tolerance towards flagrant violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. The illegal Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan continued as well.
Turkey said that there was an urgent need to find a negotiated solution to the conflict with Israel and urged Israel to engage in the peace making process in an open and transparent manner. Turkey urged the international community to establish a just and lasting peace which would pave the way for an independent Palestinian State within its 1967 borders.
Tunisia said that the Council could not just stand as an observer of the violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, adding that Israel should be held responsible for the crimes it committed against the Palestinian people. The Council should do everything in its power to protect the rights of the Palestinians, including the right to self-determination.
Chile reiterated the need to put an end to acts of violence against the Palestinian people and called for an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip. Chile was concerned about decisions that could lead to slippage and make the return to negotiations difficult, such as the continuation of illegal settlements.
Ecuador said that it was regrettable that Israel was continuing with its non-cooperative attitude with the United Nations. Ecuador had expressed its concern about the unprecedented destruction in the Gaza Strip last summer. Ecuador was disappointed that Israel had been excluded from the Secretary-General’s report on the violations of the rights of children in armed conflict.
Senegal was concerned about the living conditions of the Palestinian population in the occupied Gaza Strip. Senegal reaffirmed its support of the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people to have an independent State living in peace side by side with Israel. The peace process in the Middle East needed to remain an international priority.
Bahrain condemned the Israeli occupation power’s continued ignoring of all resolutions adopted by the United Nations. The continued occupation of Palestine was a fundamental obstacle and a major source of violations of Palestinian rights. The construction of the wall was in total disregard of the consultative opinion of the International Court of Justice.
Jordan said that Israel had not ceased to commit violations in the occupied Palestinian land. Jordan condemned all the practices which were illegal, including the taking away of identity cards, the demolition of houses and the creation of the wall encircling Jerusalem. Jordan would continue with its policies on preserving the Arab nature of East Jerusalem as a city under occupation. A solution based on two States was the only option.
Malaysia said that for far too long, the Palestinian people had continued to be deprived from their liberty, freedom and human rights, and condemned in the strongest terms the blatant violation of international law by Israel and its rejection of peace with its neighbours. Malaysia was perplexed by the continuing refusal of some countries to attend this discussion in the Council.
Iran shared deep concern on the long-running violations of international law, which in the words of a former Special Rapporteur amounted to crimes of apartheid. The only solution to the Palestinian issue was the restoration of the sovereignty right to Palestine and putting an end to its occupation.
Lebanon believed that the boycott of this discussion encouraged Israel to continue to act with full impunity and violate international humanitarian and human rights law. The rights of the Palestinian people were threatened and their basic rights were violated, which showed that Israel did not care about the law. Israeli’s occupation of part of the territory of Lebanon, and of other territories, should be brought to an end.
Yemen said that the Council must give priority to this agenda item as long as the occupation lasted and called for an end to the Israeli occupation of Arab Territories and human rights violations there. Yemen condemned all actions and measures by the Occupying Power to change legal, natural and demographic characteristics in the occupied Arab Territories.
Oman said that the Palestinian people had been yearning for independence and their own State for a long time. Oman reiterated that the continuation of the Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory and the harassment of the Palestinian population by the colonizers was a clear breach of human rights and international law. International mechanisms needed to be allowed access to Israel and Palestine.
Uruguay was deeply concerned with the impact of the previous year’s escalation of violence on Palestinian civilians. Uruguay was also worried about the effect of belligerent activities by armed Palestinian groups on civilian populations in south Israel. The Council’s role was to ensure the protection of dignity of all human beings. A negotiated solution was possible through the renewal of the dialogue between the two sides.
African Union said that the current session was a new opportunity to reaffirm the support of the African Union to the yearnings of the Palestinian people and the peaceful resolution of the conflict. The African Union was concerned about the conclusions in the report of the Commission of Inquiry, especially that the Occupying Power showed no signs of cooperation. The Israeli authorities were asked to put an immediate end to the settlement policies.
World Council of Churches expressed its concern about the large-scale evictions and demolitions in the West Bank; in 2015, the Israeli authorities had already destroyed 281 civilian Palestinian structures. The village of Susiya in the south of the West Bank was an example of suffering in the Area C. The occupier should not destroy the property on the land it was occupying or move populations.
Defence for Children International said that on 8 June the Secretary-General had released his annual report on children and armed conflict in which he had removed Israel’s armed forces from his draft “list of shame”, which provided tacit approval for Israel to continue carrying out grave violations against Palestinian children with impunity.
United Nations Watch said that some of the Member States of this Council continued to violate human rights on a daily basis. There was an obsession over Israel in this Council and yet Hamas was never named. Israel was the only democracy in the region which was based on human rights.
Arab Commission for Human Rights said that the independent Commission of Inquiry had demonstrated that Israel had committed war crimes by targeting weapons on densely populated areas, killing more than 1,500 civilians. This was an international aggression, with airstrikes carried out at the breaking of the fast during Ramadan.
International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD) said that last year 551 children had died during the Israeli military operation in Gaza. The United Nations Children’s Fund had reported in 2013 that the cruel ill-treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention was widespread, and yet the Council remained more divided than united in calling upon Israel to honour its international obligations, including the Convention on the Right of the Child.
Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man said arbitrary arrest and lack of due process was used by the occupying power as a method of control and intimidation against the Palestinian population, and condemned the waging campaigns by Israel to obstruct the work of the United Nations as a forum for genuine dialogue and accountability.
Medical Aid for Palestinians said attacks by Israeli forces on the Palestinian health sector led to a 30 per cent degradation of its capacity during last summer’s onslaught, and was set to be a major part of future attacks on Gaza. The health sector was struggling to deal with these injuries while it was being crippled by the blockade.
Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights said the vast destruction from Israel’s 2014 offensive had made it further necessary to lift the blockade of the Gaza Strip, which was considered illegal by the United Nations. The blockade clearly served to achieve strategic aims and was a component of the policy of fragmentation and denial of self-determination.
International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations called on all countries to fully participate in the debate on item 7 of the Human Rights Council, and demanded that this item remain in place until the Israeli occupation stopped. It called also for an end to the inhumane blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Human Rights Watch said that despite extensive violations, a culture of impunity prevailed. In the absence of credible domestic proceedings by Israeli and Palestinian authorities, the international community had an important role to play, and this should include national investigations under the principle of universal jurisdiction, as well as investigations by the International Criminal Court.
Amnesty International said that the question was whether there would be any justice for the 1,462 Palestinian civilians killed in the Gaza Strip, 551 of whom were children, and the six Israeli civilians killed during the conflict, and any form of accountability for Israeli military and political leaders whose policy decisions led to the complete destruction of more than 16,000 homes in the Gaza Strip. Only significant external pressure would bring any hope for justice for the victims or accountability for the perpetrators.
BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights said that the report was weakened by key structural flaws. No effort was made to consider policy crimes, nor had it considered the legal implication of Israeli’s forced displacement of half a million Palestinian inside the Gaza Strip, with 100,000 Palestinians remaining displaced today.
World Barua Organization said that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action reaffirmed the rights of minorities and said that the Dalits in India continued to suffer discrimination and suffering.
Federacion de Asociaciones de Defensa y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos condemned Israel’s policies and restrictions of the rights of the Palestinian people, and regretted that the silence of certain countries helped the continuation of impunity for perpetrators of violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Union of Arab Jurists referred to cases of persons being arbitrarily detained by Israel, and exclusion practices which were similar to the ones by Al-Qaeda and ISIS.
Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations regretted that the Council refused to refer to Hamas by name and to acknowledge violations of international law by this group. Hamas dug tunnels under Israeli territory with the aim of perpetrating attacks against civilians and used human shields in Gaza.
International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists said the Council’s behaviour was leading away from a two-State solution and human rights. Israel was treating and saving Palestinian patients and was providing large humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. The Human Rights Council should stop antagonizing peoples.
World Jewish Congress said that agenda item 7 undermined the reasons for which this Council was created and symbolized everything that challenged the Council. Violations of international law should be investigated but not with a bias and while singling out one party over the other for political ends.
Amuta for Non-governmental Organization Responsibility said that Hamas had deliberately placed weapons among the civilians knowing that Israel would have no other choice but to destroy those weapons. Unable to defeat Israel by military means, Hamas resorted to inflicting a high number of victims among the Palestinians, then calling the attention of the international community and the United Nations to them.
B’nai B’rith stressed that all parties had the obligation to respect the laws of war and that any critique risked upsetting the balance between limiting the impact of war and legitimate military targets. Hamas was deliberately refusing to comply with its obligation to respect the principle of distinction.
European Union of Jewish Students said that there was a preoccupation in this Council with one particular State. Israel had been singularly condemned more times that the rest of the countries combined. The Council could use its voice for peace, but when one side was systematically singled out, this potential was wasted.
Ingénieurs du Monde, in a joint statement with United Nations Watch, welcomed that the report acknowledged that the indiscriminate rocket fire was used unlawfully. However, the report failed to note that those combatants who used it did so without any need. Israeli defence forces did not consistently apply verifiable information about targets. Hamas violated the law by deliberately putting civilians in danger.
International Federation of Journalists appreciated the Commission’s exhaustive examination of the human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories, particularly the targeting of journalists. Palestinian media were heavily attacked during the conflict. The Federation would continue to campaign for a competent tribunal to uphold the rights of all victims and their families to an effective remedy, and that those responsible for the committed crimes were tried and punished.
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom noted that Member States of the Council had consistently failed to protect the Palestinian people. It recommended that the Council consider further action in order to guarantee human security and ensure accountability for the committed human rights violations. The findings of the Commission should translate into immediate accountability measures.
American Association of Jurists stated that Palestinian children faced systematic physical abuse, violence and torture during arrest raids and detention. Since 2000, at least 8,000 Palestinian children have been arrested and prosecuted in the Israeli military detention system. They were usually interrogated without the benefit of legal advice, which was contrary to international law.
For use of the information media; not an official record
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